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Posts Tagged ‘Church’

Lately, I have been experiencing more and more people who are exhausted from maintaining their own lives. Our culture has been stuck in this mentality that we need to have our lives in order; we need to be presentable people.

This culture’s mentality permeates every area of our lives. We have heard people say phrases like, “I will go to church when I get my life in order,” or “I am too much of a mess for friendships.” Maybe not those phrases specifically, but something similar.

We are broken people who all have scars and wounds. We all have fears and insecurities. The truth is that there is not enough glue in the world for us to keep it all together. It’s exhausting to try. I know I fail so much when I try to hold all of my pieces in place.

There is a man in the gospel of Matthew who has redefined what approaching God looks like for me. Matthew retells the story of a time when a man with Leprosy approached Jesus. He kneeled down before Jesus and asked him for healing.

I was taken aback by the counter-cultural act of authenticity by this community reject. This leper was a man ostracized from his community and family. He was tossed out of his city and home to live among other people like himself. Lepers were considered unclean. This man was quarantined as an outsider sent to wait on death.

This leper saw hope in Jesus. He left behind what he had been labeled as and approached the cleanest of men. He saw a clean man who could make him clean, and the unapproachable approached Jesus. By cultural standards, this man was labeled as too far gone to be helped.

This man has shown me the truth of what presentable really looks like.

You see Jesus came to save the people who knew they needed it. He did not come to save the ones who “had it all together.” My heart looks like this man. The truth is all of our hearts look like a version of the leper. That is the perfect time to approach God.

We are messy people. I am finally getting better at putting down the glue that is not working. No one is presentable enough. That is the point. The church is for the mutually messy hearted people. The church is formed because of people who mutually bring their messiness before the one who saves.

This leper brings even more resounding truth to the verse, “at just the right time when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. But god demonstrates his love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Christ did not wait until we were a people who had the right glue. He did not wait until we were presentable enough. Christ came in the midst of our powerless moments; he came in the midst of our sin. He touches our hearts and says, “I am willing.”

Christ came for the broken and wounded while they were still in that place. He came for the hopeless in the midst of their hopelessness, not after. Christ came for the “in the midst.

I am kneeling my messy heart before him and claiming that as presentable enough.

Do you try and hold it all together? Why?

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I am a huge fan of the Indianapolis Colts. Some of you might be thinking that it’s because I have jumped on the Peyton Manning bandwagon. The truth is that the Colts are more than one player. They act like it.

There are no real show-boaters on the team. Every player actually looks like he is in the game to play. I have always loved the Colts because they exude character. I have always been attracted to how they challenge one another to be better players.

The character of the Colt players is evident when they encourage one another instead of yelling after a dropped throw or miscommunication. I have not seen Peyton leave the field cussing after throwing an interception. He sits on the sidelines and talks strategy with his teammates for the next offensive opportunity.

I recently started reading Tony Dungy’s, “The Mentor Leader.” Through reading this book, I have gained more respect for the team I love. I also found the answer to what I had been attracted to in my team in the first place.

Jim Caldwell, acting head coach for the Colts,  puts into words what he discovered while talking to Tony about the Colts.

The team had a policy of placing character in the forefront of the player-selection process. It was a common organizational practice to eliminate players — even talented “difference-makers” – from consideration in the draft if they possessed questionable character flaws.

Character matters. It is evident in that team just how much of a difference character makes.

Some people might say that the Colts are on to something with their policy about character, but this policy was in place a long time ago when the church was forming.

Pauls’ letters in the New Testament are filled with this character policy. Paul described the details of living differently for the Lord in multiple letters. There were policies in place for the requirements of those who wanted to be in church leadership.

The leadership of the church was held to a higher standard of living. This higher standard can also be called character. Deacons and Overseers were required to be people who were living life above reproach, faithful, respectable, hospitable, teachable, gentle, self-controlled, and able to manage is family well.

Character matters. Our character matters. Character influences every area of our lives, as well as, the lives of other people. People who have good character are on the front lines of following after him. Good character is attractive. Character is a not so small thing that makes teams and people great.

The same character policy that Paul understood for building the church applies to us today. Character stands out and makes people different.

My character needs some work. My desire is to be different.

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I remember the days where my friends and I would write letters to one another. I could not wait for the mail after summers at camp. I will admit that I was not the best responder to letters, but I loved receiving them. Letters were rich and I read each one a million times.

Today, there is no need for snail mail on a personal level. We can “talk” to one another instantly. Email is the new snail mail and texting the new telegram.

There is such value in messages given. There is a lot of responsibility and weight in everything written.

I have been intrigued lately by the letters that Paul wrote in the bible. Each one of Paul’s letters carried intense weight.

The church needed those letters from their leader. The church was much more recognizable in Paul’s day. There was only a small percentage of people who made up the church in each place Paul traveled to.

The church was named for the body of believers in each place Paul ministred to. Paul church planted all over the place. Each letter served as a reminder of what he taught them about who Christ is. Each letter spelled out what following after Christ would really mean. Choosing Christ is hard and looks foolish to those who did not believe his message.

Each church faced different problems and temptations dependent on the culture. Paul cared so deeply about people really believing in Jesus. He poured his life out in every way so that all would not only just know who God was, but that their life would be changed forever in following after him.

I have been asking myself the question of if I were Paul, what would I have to say to believer’s today? What would I write in a letter to believer’s that made up the church of today? What are today’s issues that Paul would address? What encouragement and discipline would he include in his letter to today’s body of Christ?

I would love to take on this challenge with you.

Challenge:

Write a letter to believer’s of today’s culture or where you are locationally. Post it on your blog and extend the challenge.

Can’t wait to see what kind of things you see!

 

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The act of being present is growing increasingly hard for me. There are so many things I can be doing that are right at my finger tips. The demands for my attention are self inflicted. I look at my phone and there are so many options to not be present. I could be chatting on twitter, commenting on facebook, emailing, or texting, and all WHILE talking on the phone. Ok, tell me you have never responded back to a text while being on the phone?! To think just a year ago I refused to jump on the texting band wagon.

I watch other people texting while sitting out at a restaurant with other people. I have been in conversations with others when they hear the familiar ringtone of something on their phone and attend to it. People can be in the middle of a sentence and trail off, or forget what they were saying, because they attend to their phone. I chuckle when I hear people grow concerned when someone has not responded to their text within a two minutes.

I will admit I am quick to bust out my phone when I don’t feel like paying attention to the sermon in church. Can I get a witness/amen out there!?

What has happened to me?! What has happened to this culture of instant gratification?

I remember the days of not having a cell phone and having to wait to see who called until I got home. I remember having a conversation or a meal where phones were not ringing or texting was not the priority. I remember when my brain was actually present. I want to go back to the time of remembering what an entire conversation was about. I want to go back to a time where I don’t have to worry if my message is going to the right person.

I don’t want have to think about whether or not my response to a direct message is updating my Facebook and twitter status because I didn’t type “D” in front of the name.

The extrovert in me loves all of these outlets. I love getting to know people from every where. I love “meeting” people and developing new friendships by way of all these social media options. But there is a time to do it. I am aware of my need for boundaries.

I want to be present with those I am with. I want to sit down and read my bible and journal and not check my phone. I also have this desire for others to want to be present with me.

Being present with others shows love as well as caring for the other person. Jesus always stopped and listened to someone’s whole story. He cared deeply about the life of other people. Jesus always paid attention, and he was never in a rush. Jesus didn’t think about the next thing. He didn’t even think about the other people around him while he was listening. I want to be this present. I know I can survey the crowd while someone is talking me. I hate that I send the message that the person in front of me is not worth my time.

I want to love deeply. I want to care for others deeply. I want being present to be evident in my character. I want to get back to listening to the whole story. I am curious to see how my listening skills will improve in my relationship with the Lord as well.

How are you at being present?

What can you do to be more present?

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I am a person who loves parties and celebrations. The extrovert in me loves gatherings of people both big and small. I love barbecues in the summer. I love parties of any kind. I love walks with friends and coffee dates.

I remember as kid my neighborhood would throw these big block parties every summer. It was tradition that at the end of the school year my neighborhood would celebrate the beginning of summer with a block party. I would get so excited. We would close down both ends of our street with traffic cones. Kids could ride their big wheels and tricycles in the street without the fear of cars coming. One person’s lawn would be designated for the grilling and buffet of contributed foods. Water fights would inevitably start. You could hear laughter for hours into the night. My neighbors spent the evening and night just connecting with one another. There were endless conversations about so many different seasons of life and all were celebrated. Block parties are where I remember good and pure community.

Blogging has that same flavor for me. There is so much community experienced in blogging. There is power in community. We are all created as with a core value and need for relationship. Blogging has knocked that door off the hinges. You don’t have to be a blog writer, just a person who loves others and wants to find some great friends.

I have experienced some rich community in blogging. When I think about some of those experiences, one thing comes to mind – “deep calls to deep.” There are so many seasons of life I have been blessed to be a part of because of blogging. I have had conversations, over blogging, about grief, wounds, authenticity, funny kid stories, hard parenting stories, stories of broken hearts, broken relationships, restoration, reconciliations, hopes, dreams, love lost, love found, love pursued, real wrestling, and life questions. There is so much life to experience with in this community. I have loved it.

I have been blown away by the sharing of someone’s heart that gives courage to another to voice their hearts mess. I have watched as my friend Alece’s blog has turned into church. She can post something which then ignites unbelievable conversation and sharing within her comments. That has been amazing to be a part of. The body of Christ has come alive by the way of blogging.

Also in those treasured moments is when I get to meet another blogger friend in person. Those are such rich times. This past week I was blessed to meet Jenny Rain, Annie Laurie, and Heidi (Heidi is a soon to be blogger – hint, hint). It was awesome to deepen our shared experience through live conversation. I love the jumping off point for the conversations stemming from our blogs.

Even tonight (Sunday), I had the best time “hanging out” with Makeda, Sara, and Alece on twitter! They are a great time!

Life is meant to be known together. Life is meant to be experienced together. Blogging has been an awesome way to do that.

How have you experienced community in this block party of blogging?

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Church?

For the past couple of weeks I have loved experiencing shared conversations, wrestling truths, laughter so hard it requires some physical expression, thought provoking “hmmm’z”, singing with 1500 strangers, connections fostered through great blog hearts….the list goes on. I have walked away from many of those moments saying, “that was some great church.”

This idea of church has my thoughts marinating on what great church is. I could tell you a million different ways I have experience God in “church,: but less then half of those experiences would have to do with being in a church building.

In the bible, Jesus describes our bodies as being the temple of the holy spirit.  Yes, this verse is used in a different context, but I also think it can apply to the concept of church. We are carriers of his holy spirit. So it makes sense that where “two or three are gathered together, there he is with them.” Church!

I value having a building to attend to experience church. I am so grateful for all the ways I have known God more by “going to church.” But I am even more grateful that Church is not bound by walls or program. Church is so much more.

So here is are my ponder questions…

– How do you define church?

– What is your ideal church?

 

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